During the long months of COVID, our Well members faced many additional insurmountable challenges. Two particularly come to mind. First, we lost several members during the pandemic, and we miss them terribly. We notice their absences during game time, when their laughter no longer joins in the fun. We are painfully aware of their passing when we pray for one another and their kind voices aren’t carrying our concerns. And we miss them each time we gather, longing for their friendship and fellowship.
These losses remind me of another monumental difficulty members of the Well Community faced during COVID: isolation. While most touched base with us and each other regularly when they stopped by to pick up lunches, items to keep them safe and personal care supplies to keep them healthy, social distancing and masks made relating well difficult. We missed being together, growing together, caring together.
Now that we are together again, I think we all cherish our community more than ever. This was certainly evident last month at our first spring retreat in several years. (We did get to have the fall one last year.) Yes, we had some of our traditional retreat happenings—hayride, games, crafts, devotions—but somehow, I think the members and staff just enjoyed everything all the more for the opportunity to be together.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As I have considered what aspects of mental health I have learned about this past year, I think I would say I have a deepening awareness of the importance of community for those whose illnesses already push them into isolation. The late columnist Michael Gerson, who himself struggled with depression, captured this idea well:
Human beings are fundamentally social creatures who only find mental health in the context of supportive relationships. In isolation, naturally depressive people are more likely to enter downward spirals of despair. The inner voice that normally whispers worthlessness can become a shout of self-condemnation. And it is dangerous when there are no other voices — no kinder voices — to contradict it.
At the Well Community we offer kinder voices that say, “I enjoy you. I know you. You matter.” We laugh and cry together and reassure each other that we are not alone.